Diabetes does not necessarily equate fatality. Although we can decrease its repercussions by improving our lifestyle habits, it is obviously much wiser to prevent it altogether by taking charge of our health today!
What is Type 2 diabetes? Glucose (sugar) circulates through the bloodstream and is the primary source of energy for all of the cells in our body. It is insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, which plays the pivotal role in getting glucose to penetrate the cells of our body. In individuals who suffer from Type 2 diabetes, insulin is no longer able to open the cells’ doors and allow glucose to penetrate. In addition, the pancreas may sometimes become tired, and is consequently unable to produce enough insulin. Result: the level of glucose in the blood increases and the cells are unable to get enough energy.
Is diabetes serious? We do not know exactly why certain individuals develop Type 2 diabetes, while others do not. However, what we do know is that carrying excess body weight, leading a sedentary lifestyle, having a family history of diabetes, as well as advanced age all serve in increasing our risk of suffering from diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is easy to ignore, particularly in the beginning, because the symptoms may be rare and you still feel relatively well. Yet, this is a disease with serious and even fatal consequences: blood glucose levels that are too high damage the major organs such as the heart, blood vessels and nerves, the eyes and the kidneys. Men who suffer from diabetes also have three times the risk of suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED).
How to prevent diabetes…or delay its progression Although we are unable to cure diabetes, we can definitely prevent and delay its progression by maintaining blood glucose levels (the amount of sugar in the blood) that are as close to normal as possible, most of the time. In order to do so, we need to make the life-long commitment of eating healthy, being regularly active, and testing our blood glucose levels regularly. If your physician has prescribed diabetes medications, it is essential you take it diligently. The consensus is that a tight control of blood glucose levels can decrease the risk of suffering a heart attack or a cerebrovascular accident (stroke) by more than 50% in people with type 2 diabetes.
Weight loss Carrying excess weight severely increases our risk of triggering the onset of diabetes. Consequently, even a minimal weight loss of a few kilograms can greatly help normalize our blood glucose levels. In order to achieve this, you should concentrate on making enduring changes in your eating habits and being physically active regularly. Keep yourself motivated by remembering the benefits of loosing weight: having a healthier heart; having more energy; and improving your self esteem.
Diet Contrary to popular belief, there are no special diets to prevent or treat diabetes: we are not restricted to eating boring and tasteless food! In order to have a healthier diet, we usually have to increase our daily consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products (at least three grams of fibres per serving – there are foods that are rich in nutrients but low in calorie and fat content), and decrease our servings of meats, deli meats and cold cuts, fatty cheeses and sweets. Every member of your family is sure to benefit from such an improvement in their diet.
You might also find that meeting with a nutritionist can be very beneficial in improving your eating habits. This health professional can help you determine your food priorities, and teach you how to integrate these new habits in your daily routine. You can also purchase new cookbooks to get inspired by delicious and healthy recipes.
Exercise Everyone should be active at least thirty minutes per day, on most days of the week. Physical exercise lowers blood glucose levels and increases our sensitivity to insulin, two primordial components in the prevention of diabetes. It also contributes in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, having a healthier heart, as well as increasing our energy level. If you have been inactive for a quite a while, speak with your physician before starting a workout program. You should also begin slowly, increasing progressively as you gain endurance. If you choose an activity you truly enjoy, you are likely to have more fun doing it regularly. Riding a bicycle, walking briskly, taking aquaform classes, cross-country skiing or skating – in short, any activity that strikes your fancy!
Controlling blood glucose levels If you have diabetes, your physician will recommend that you measure your blood glucose levels regularly. The objective is to stay within your target range as often as possible. You will also need to learn the effects your diet, physical activity, stress and medications have on your blood glucose levels. No sense in sticking your head in the sand! In the long run, you will definitely benefit from the steps you take to maintain normal blood glucose levels, rather than fear measuring them.
In conclusion You suffer from type 2 diabetes? You find managing your diabetes a bit overwhelming and complicated? Fix yourself one sensible goal at a time and remember that by taking charge of your health today, you dramatically lower your risk of complications, and you increase your chances of living a healthier life. You should also know that you are not alone. Ask the advice and support of your pharmacist, your treating physician and support organizations like Diabetes Quebec.
Take charge of your health today and live a long and healthy life!